The apostle Paul, along with everyone of his day, was quite aware of the Olympics. They began in 776BC and continued for over 1000 years. Their height would have been in Paul’s day. No doubt the Olympic tradition was the background of 1 Corinthians 9: 24-25, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”
I am always stunned by the devotion and passion and emotion of the Olympic athletes. When they win, it is obviously the greatest moment of their lives. When they lose, it is obviously the worst moment of their lives. They devote so much time and energy and effort to gain the temporal reward of the praise of men and a circle of metal. Don’t get me wrong, the pursuit of excellence in athletics is a noble and worthy endeavor. Also, many of these athletes recognize their ability is a gift from God and rightly honor him in their victory. But the main point of Paul in 1 Corinthians is equally true, if they give that kind of effort for a wreath, how much more should we devote ourselves to that which is eternal and imperishable. I don’t know how many of you are paying any attention whatsoever to the Olympic Games; but if you do, I hope the dedication, and work of the athletes of the Olympics serves to motivate you to pursue the greatest treasure – Jesus Christ. “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3: 12-14.